109 A Question of Loyalty

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‘No, my Lord. I believe you do indeed wish to remove me from the Comte’s control, but something I believe you are reluctant to accept is that I should also be beyond your control.’



William de Montacute – 11th June 1355

The Earl reflected that it was that wretched archery competition which had brought John to the attention of both Joan and Lady Eleanor. Everything which had happened since was an inevitable result of that day. Initially it had been Joan who had asked that John met Ximene.

At that time he had been happy enough for John to be the centre of one of Joan’s never-ending mischievous schemes. Now he thought there was a strong chance that Joan had put ideas into Lady Eleanor’s head. The result was the request for John to be appointed as Ximene’s bodyguard and almost immediately the request that John should accompany Ximene in her escape to Sicily. The excuse for involving John was that his co-operation was essential in case he interfered in – prevented Ximene’s escape. Since then, at every step, he had watched silently as John Stanley increased in stature and at the same time had grown ever closer to Ximene.

The Earl pursed his lips. John was no longer performing the role of being Ximene’s guard. He had now become Ximene’s guard. It was an interesting but disturbing development.

Now John had triggered an escape attempt involving the Prince which it would be difficult to disavow. Further, it seemed likely that in any subsequent discussions, John would be negotiating in public on behalf of Ximene, not in private on behalf of the Prince. Not at all what had been intended.

It had to be turned around. If the Prince knew about and even organised Ximene’s escape, then she must go to Bordeaux. This would fulfil King Edward’ s vision of what his son should do. Once in Bordeaux, different reasons for failure in marriage negotiations would have to be found.

By the time Ximene arrived the Earl had spent more time reviewing the past than thinking about the future. He struggled to hide his irritability as Ximene reported her tale of woe. However as he listened to her story, suddenly it all became clear. The incident during the hunt had been unfortunate and the Comte’s reaction inevitable, but Ximene had never backed away from her intention to be independent of the Comte and now that the Comte had introduced sexual overtones … She felt she had to leave.

The Earl needed no more convincing.’We will help you Ximene. I am confident we can get you out of here and away to safety in Bordeaux.’

Ximene responded quickly.’ Thank you, William, but there are a few more details we must discuss. I do not want to go to Bordeaux. I want you to deliver me safely to Aragon, so I can escape to Sicily, to independence. There will be transport available from Porte Vendres. ’

The Earl groaned and bowed his head, this was just what he had feared. He lifted his head and looked Ximene in the eye. ‘That is not possible.’ He shook his head. ‘ Apparently last night you said you would accept whatever conditions the Prince might impose.’

‘Last night. It was late. I was distraught. Now in the full light of day, I see things differently.’

The Earl turned away, frowning, irritated by her request. He forced the look of annoyance from his face and turned again to face her.’You now say you desire to escape to Aragon. We would not be able to accompany you, my Lady. When it becomes known we have helped you escape, a pact between the counts of Foix and Armagnac could be very possible. If we help you escape from here, we should return to Bordeaux by the fastest possible route, through the foothills of the Pyrenees. We would all be safe in Bordeaux if a revolt were to occur. In any case, Bordeaux would be the safest place for you!’

Ximene’s eyes flashed and she wrung her hands so hard that her knuckles turned white. ‘No, my Lord. I believe you do indeed wish to remove me from the Comte’s control, but something I believe you are reluctant to accept is that I should also be beyond your control.’

‘The Prince’s control?’

‘No, my Lord, your control. that is why you accepted John Stanley travelling with me. Not to keep me safe but to give you a measure of control. He is, or was your creature.’


‘Yes in John’s eyes it was about my safety but in your eyes, it was about control.’

The Earl frowned, it was true.

Ximene continued.’What do you think the Prince and I discussed during the dinner at Muret? How pretty were the stars? The elaborate lighting scheme? No! We were not even discussing the possibility of a dynastic marriage. The Prince wants to remove the Franks from the lands of Occitan, but that is nothing to do with religion. It is only concerned with improving the security of Aquitaine and giving him access to Mediterranean trade. He does not have to marry me to do that, we agreed to explore other options.’

The Earl took a deep breath. ‘But…’

‘No. William let me finish. The Prince wants to personally examine my bloodlines and discuss them with experts. He wants to make sure that if we have children they will enhance, not degrade, his own bloodline. Does that sound to you like someone who has made a final decision to marry me? I have never agreed and he has never requested me to go to Bordeaux whilst these negotiations proceed. We never made that agreement.’

The Earl narrowed his eyes. ‘Everything has changed, we no longer have Don Fernandino and Les Etoiles to help you. I can only repeat. We cannot escort you to Porte Vendres.’

‘Just get me across the Aragonese border, which is not far away. I will be safe there. John Stanley will protect me until we find a Cathar safe house. If I was totally under the Prince’s control, I would be little better off than being here. I want and need my independence.’

‘John Stanley?’ groaned the Earl, thinking that perhaps Joan was indeed a witch! She didn’t want the Prince’s marriage to Ximene to go ahead and had hoped John Stanley would distract her. He could now see all her manipulations coming to life.

‘So you still want my creature to accompany you’

‘Yes, because he is no longer your creature. ’ replied Ximene; fluttering her eyelashes.

The Earl could only gaze open-eyed. It was true. Oh! She is manipulating me. She reminds me of Joan.

Ximene paused. ‘One other thing, if I ever I am invited to become Queen of England I would want the betrothal contract to be countersigned by Joan of Kent. I have no ambition to live my life looking over my shoulder at potential enemies. She would be welcome at my court but as my husband’s lover not as his de facto consort.’

The Earl thought that if Joan was indeed a witch, some of her spells had become misdirected. She would never have imagined having to sign a contract to gain access to the Prince. ‘ Who put all this in your mind?’ he hesitated. ‘John Stanley?’

Ximene snapped her reply ‘No, and you should know that. Think about your own situation You are loyal to the Prince despite your sharing the favours of Joan of Kent. John is the same. He is as loyal to the Prince as you are, but he will try his best to be loyal to both of us. To be fair to him, I think you need to redefine his objectives.’

‘So where did these thoughts originate?

Oh! William, remember, my grandmother was at Clermont for the Festival of the Moon. She had discussions, both with you and Joan.’

The Earl became aware he was under scrutiny.

Ximene continued, ‘I had always assumed that the discussion with Joan was deliberately encouraged by you, to let me know of the potential difficulties presented by Joan’s ambition, was it not so?’ She narrowed her eyes. If she was waiting for the Earl’s reaction she did not get one.

Ximene immediately launched into another topic. ‘It probably would be better to consider all terms and conditions at a later date but remember that the main reason for my even considering marriage to the Prince is that I want to free my people from the yoke of oppression. I want to restore lands to their rightful owners; I want to share the wealth of my lands, so even the poorest peasant can lead a full life, and above all, I want all the citizens of Occitan to be able to practise the religion of their choice and live their lives according to the tenants of that religion.’

The Earl hesitated and decided he needed time to review his options. ‘Yes, I can see that these are all important issues that will not be resolved quickly.’ The Earl was torn. Bordeaux was still his preferred option, but he found himself believing in Ximene’s words. He liked the sound of the Occitan that she spoke of. ‘It is probably best that you do establish your independence before finalising your decision on the conditions for your marriage, and…,’ he continued reluctantly, ‘in those circumstances, we would prefer one of the Prince’s guards to accompany you. At the moment I have no idea how to achieve that.’

Ximene smiled sweetly. ‘I will leave the details to you, William.’

The Earl bowed in acknowledgement of her wishes and was surprised to find himself doing so.

Later in the evening, at Lady Eleanor’s suggestion, the Earl accompanied her to the cavern. Having expressed his delight at such an unusual experience and comfortably settled in one of the baths, he decided to pursue the options of helping Ximene escape to the Mediterranean coast. ‘Eleanor, where is Guillam? Don Fernandino has been wounded; we do not know how badly. Ximene does not want to come with us to Bordeaux. None of us has any knowledge of the Cathar routes through the mountains or the location of Cathar safe houses. We need Guillam to guide Ximene and John to safety. Guillam’s knowledge may not be up to date, but he does have knowledge.’

Lady Eleanor’s head bowed and then she lifted her head to stare vacantly into the darkness above. She took a deep breath. ’He briefly met Thierry d’Arques at Beaufort and took a dislike, no that is too strong and not even accurate … a distrust of him. He is trailing Thierry. It may lead him to Don Fernandino or it may lead him to something else, but I have no idea where he is and have no way of contacting him. From here, at full gallop and with a change of horses, it is possible to reach Perpignan or Port Vendres in a day, but Thierry was not exactly galloping when he left us.’

The Earl looked surprised. ‘Interesting. I also watched Thierry leave and saw no one following him.’

‘William, is this you speaking? I thought the whole point of surveillance was for no one to be aware of it happening. It is by its nature a secret!’

The Earl grinned and nodded. ‘Well, I need Guillam or someone like him. I have already told Ximene that we will plan her escape. My preference is during the dinner that Gaston is organising for the nineteenth of June, just over eight days away. At this moment the only option is for Ximene to return with us to Bordeaux. She has a vague idea of John Stanley guiding her through the mountains and finding a Cathar safe house. It is just a dream. John is a fine young man but he is not a miracle worker and he does not know the Cathar trails.’

‘Perhaps, but we all have dreams, William. don’t we? I will look in my library and get Alyse to search the Comte’s library to see if there is any information which could help John locate and follow the Cathar trails.

The Earl sighed. ‘I repeat, it is just a dream.’


Table of Contents

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History


Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355


'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.